Courchevel Altiport – Across Europe in a PC-12, Direct to the Ski Slopes!
Courchevel altiport nestles in the heart of the french alps, right next to the ski resort. The airfield sits at 6,585 feet (2,007 metres), home to the world's steepest paved runway in the world, with a gradient of 18.60 percent. The altiport is considered demanding, requiring a skilled pilot and a capable machine. This site offers the sort of conditions under which the PC-12 can perform to its potential!
The altiport – the term by which high-altitude airports are known – is run by ten employees during the main winter season. Anyone who works here has to be a good all-rounder: manager, fireman, runway clearance. The team works hand in hand to keep the 1,762-feet (537-metre) short runway free of snow at all times, ensuring the approximately 7,500 flight movements per year can proceed smoothly. 6,500 of those movements take place in the winter, with helicopters accounting for 70 percent and aircraft for 30 percent.
Only the PC-12 Has What It Takes
Fabien Rousset, Director of Flight Operations at Jetfly, the largest PC-12 operator in Europe, explains: “Courchevel is one of the world’s most demanding airports. Very few aircraft types have what it takes to land here.” Jetfly carries out some 150 passenger flights to Courchevel every year, making it the largest operator on site in terms of market share. “The PC-12 is the only aircraft capable of flying eight passengers across Europe and then landing here”, he adds.
The runway was built in 1961 based on an idea by Michael Ziegler, a mountain and aviation enthusiast, and a former mayor of Courchevel. At that time, the first flight movements were carried out with a Pilatus Porter PC-6. Which explains why a model PC-6 now adorns the restaurant of the “Le Pilatus” Hotel, located right next to the airfield. The terrace is a great place to relax with a coffee and croissant and enjoy the fabulous mountain views while watching the action on the tarmac. Courchevel was also chosen as the location for the James Bond film, “GoldenEye”, in which a PC-6 made its big appearance.
Maximum Performance and Commercial Operations
“The PC-12’s high-performance engine allows us to depart from the airport at the maximum permissible take-off weight”, explains François Sermon, Pilot and Training Manager with EAPC, a Belgian operator with five PC-12s in its fleet. “Even with many successful landings under your belt, the approach is always challenging. Diverse weather phenomena also require an experienced crew. As for the aircraft, the high-altitude mountainous terrain is an exacting environment in which the PC-12 can perform to the full.”
In January of this year 2021, PC-12 customer Fly 7 Executive Aviation, a subsidiary of Jetfly, was the first outfit to obtain a single-engine commercial operator licence for Courchevel. As a result, Fly 7 is now authorised to use a PC-12 to fly passengers into this exceptional airport from all over Europe. The first commercial landing with the PC-12 was made by Yves Girard, Senior Pilot at Fly 7 and former Commander of the Patrouille de France, and Alexandre Combes, Head of Mountain Operations, early in January of this year.
Closer to the Final Destination
Landing in Courchevel is a clear demonstration of just how close the PC-12 can take you to your final destination. As François Sermon says: “It’s literally impossible to land any closer to your final destination” – and all without having to sacrifice luggage or, in this case, ski equipment. The precious time saved as a result can be put to good use on the slopes in Courchevel!